Skip to content The Open University

Faculty of Social Sciences

Staff Profile

Prof Allan Cochrane

Prof Allan Cochrane

Emeritus Professor

Research Office


I have worked in the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Open University for more than thirty years and in that time I have been a student, associate lecturer, Dean, Pro-Vice Chancellor, and Head of Department.  I am just beginning to understand how the place works.

Across my time at The Open University I have worked on a wide range of interdisciplinary courses as well as courses in geography, urban studies and social policy. My teaching and research interests lie at the junction of geography, social and public policy and, as well as teaching on these subjects, I have published widely in them. I have successfully supervised over thirteen PhD Students in these areas.

Outside the University I chair the Advisory Board of the ESRC funded Cities in Conflict project based at the universities of Cambridge and Exeter and Queen’s University Belfast; am a member of the ESRC’s Peer Review College; and a member of the Editorial Board of Territory, Politics, Governance.


BA (Hons) (Oxon), PhD (Open), Diploma in German (Open)

Professional affiliations

Fellow, Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers
Member, Regional Studies Association

Course development and teaching

I was actively involved in the development of Welfare, crime and society (DD208). I contributed centrally to the video programmes (on Surveillance), co-wrote five chapters and jointly edited Book 2 of the course, with Deborah Talbot (Security: Welfare Crime and Society, Maidenhead: Open University Press). I am currently module chair.

I am also now working as a member of the team developing a new third level social policy module which will be presented to students for the first time in 2013.

Research interests

I am particularly interested in understanding and exploring the ways in which the spaces of public policy are made up in practice, in ways that reflect relations of power within and beyond the state. It is in this broader context that my research has focused on a series of, mainly urban, sites through which it is possible to consider the workings of power, the possibilities of politics and changing forms of policy intervention.

In recent years, I have undertaken research on the following main areas:

  • the reshaping and re-imagining of Berlin (its repositioning within a new nation and a changing Europe), with an emphasis on the making up of a new capital city and the meanings that have been associated with that process (initially arising out of an ESRC funded project undertaken a decade ago with John Allen, Michael Pryke and Adrian Passmore).
  • contemporary understandings of British urban policy - the changing shape (regular rebirth and renewal) of urban policy since its birth the 1960s. The aim of my research is not to argue about the effectiveness (or lack of effectiveness) of different anti-poverty strategies or different forms of urban policy. Instead, it seeks to understand why particular clusters become identified as specifically urban problems suitable for intervention through urban policies and spatial targeting at one time while they may be understood quite differently at different times and in different places. In this context, I have sought to develop a critical engagement with the discourse of  sustainable communities and sustainable communities, particularly in the era after growth;
  • the ways in which urban and regional politics need to be understood, as the result of an active and continuing process of negotiation, defined through relations across space and coming together in assemblages, rather than straightforwardly bounded territorial institutions. Much of this work has been undertaken in collaboration with John Allen, and also with Clive Barnett and Scott Rodgers, in exploring what it is that makes urban politics 'urban', as well as in discussion with Kevin Ward on issues of policy mobility. The South-East of England is a particularly interesting case, as a 'city region' that resolutely refuses to allow its boundaries to be defined, while equally confidently claiming not only national economic and political hegemony but also a global role;
  • the role of universities in the social transformation of the regions within which they find themselves. This arises from an ESRC funded project on which I worked with colleagues from the Open University's Centre for Higher Education Research and Information.

I am currently centrally involved in two significant ESRC funded research projects which are directly related to these concerns. The first, with Bob Colenutt and Martin Field, is focused on the Tensions and Prospects for Sustainable Housing Growth on the edge of the South East, in the wake of the financial crisis of the last few years. The second, with Sarah Neal, Katy Bennett, Kieran Connell, Hannah Jones and Giles Mohan, is focused on Living Multiculture, that is the extent to which and ways in which new spaces of multiculture may be emerging in towns and cities which draw on the practices of everyday interaction rather than top down policies or institutionalised diversity.

I am a member of the OpenSpace Research Centre.

Recent publications

A selection of my research publications can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.


(2007) Understanding Urban Policy. A Critical Approach. Oxford: Blackwell.

Articles and chapters

(in press) 'Putting higher education in its place: the socio-political geographies of English universities', with Ruth Williams, Policy and Politics

(2012) Researching the geographies of policy mobility: confronting the methodological challenges, with Kevin Ward. Environment and Planning A, 44, 1: 5-12

(2012) 'Making up a region: the rise and fall of the South-East of England as a political territory', Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 30, 1: 95–108.

(2011) 'Multiculture and community in new city spaces', with Jamie Kesten, Giles Mohan and Sarah Neal, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32, 1: 133–150.

(2011) 'Urban politics beyond the urban', International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(4), pp. 862–863.

(2011) 'Sustainable communities and English spatial policy', in: Flint, John and Raco, Mike eds. The Future of Sustainable Cities: Critical Reflections. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 47–63.

(2011) 'Post-suburbia in the context of urban containment: the case of the South-East of England', in Phelps, Nicholas A. and Wu, Fulong eds. International Perspectives on Suburbanization. A Post Suburban World? Palgrave Macmillan: 192–210

(2011) 'Making up global urban policies', in Bridge, Gary and Watson, Sophie eds. The New Blackwell Companion to the City. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 738–746

(2010) 'Exploring the regional politics of 'sustainability': making up sustainable communities in the South-East of England', Environmental Policy and Governance, 20, 6: 270-381

(2010) 'Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics' with John Allen, Antipode 42, 5: 1071–1089

(2010) Alternative approaches to local and regional development, in Pike, Andy; Rodriguez-Pose, Andrés and Tomaney, John eds. Handbook of Local and Regional Development. Abingdon: Routledge:  97–105.

(2009) 'Re-engaging intersections of media, politics and cities - introduction to a debate' with Clive Barnett and Scott Rodgers, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33, 1: 231-232.

(2009) 'Mediating urban politics' with Clive Barnett and Scott Rodgers (2009) International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33, 1: 246-249.

(2008) 'London: regeneration or rebirth?' (2008) in Imrie, Rob, Lees, Loretta. and Raco, Mike eds. Regenerating London: Governance, Sustainability and Community in a Global City. London: Routledge, 313-322.

(2007) 'Beyond the territorial fix: regional assemblages, politics and power', with John Allen Regional Studies, 41, 9: 1161-1175.

(2007) 'Managing local labour markets and making up new spaces of welfare', with David Etherington, Environment and Planning A, 39, 12: 2958-2974.

(2006) 'Devolving the heartland: making up a new social policy for the 'South East', Critical Social Policy 26, 3: 685-696.

(2006) '(Anglo)phoning home from Berlin: a response to Alan Latham', European Urban and Regional Studies, 13, 4: 371-376

(2006) 'Making up meanings in a capital city: power, memory and monuments in Berlin' European Urban and Regional Studies, 13, 1: 21-40.

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Last updated: 18 November 2013